couch on the corner

I wrote on Facebook tonight, “I have the weirdest compulsion to pick up every curbside ‘free to a good home’ couch I see, regardless of it’s state of disrepair. I never do, but without fail I think, ‘I could find a good home for that feces-laden couch.'” And it’s true, I think that every time.

I think it’s because I’ve felt like that couch before. I’ve felt like garbage, like I’ve messed up enough I deserve no better than the trash heap. I’ve been there. And even though it’s a couch and, as such, incapable of feelings I just get this crazy notion that I need to let the couch know it’s worth something. No matter what (visible feces, completely fractured structure) there’s a home out there for that couch.

Welcome to my psychosis.

The hardest thing about Miss A was that I needed to see redemption in her story. Her story was such that there was no obvious place of redemption if she returned back with her birth family. And so I put it on me (much like the couch) to find that redemption for her, or to be that redemption for her.

Sometimes I forget that I’m not responsible for anyone’s redemption. Sometimes I forget that price has been paid so many years ago on a cross.

Thank God it’s not on me, because I’m human and I make real shitty mistakes. If redemption were up to me there would literally be no hope, it feels good just admitting that.

That said, I can’t seem to find that line between being the hands and feet of God and trying to be God. The latter I can do on my very best days, the former I fail every. single. time.

Perhaps that’s what foster care was for me. (I should mention we are taking a break for an undetermined amount of time. The kids have asked us to, we know it’s best not to enter into that again for everyone’s sanity.) And when I take a good, hard look at myself in the mirror I know it was wrong to assume I could take on that too.

But I don’t know, it keeps me up at night the beautiful and terrible of the world (as Jody would say).

I am a constant work in progress, as you can easily see. My latest “thing to work on” is believing in the redemption even when it’s not clearly visible. Because I know even in my very lowest times, when I saw no hope and no peace-redemption found me. And it had so little to do with my actions.

But a work in progress means taking one step forward and two steps back. And so-if you live in the Quad City area and are in need of a couch, I have a few in mind for you.

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Empty

You know how when you are going through the birthing process and you’ve been pushing for 3 hours (no? just me?) and you swear to yourself-and your husband-that you will never, ever, ever be doing this again because it’s the worst kind of pain you’ve ever experienced and then the baby is placed on your belly and you’re all “oh yeah, I’m totally doing this again.”?

Or when you’ve hit the 4th snag in your adoption process, this process that was supposed to take x amount of time is now taking 3x and you swear to yourself-and your husband-that you will never, ever, ever be doing this again because seeing the face of your angel so far from you and not being able to go there is the worst kind of pain you’ve ever experienced. Then you meet that little one and you feel heaven slam into earth and you’re all “oh yeah, I’m definitely doing this again.”?

That space in between, that’s an empty space. You’re drained of your energy, your commitment, your time. It feels like you’ve poured it all into the process and now it’s gone and you’re all, fuuuuudge this sucks. Then you get through it and switch to, “Well I guess it wasn’t that bad.” because now you’re full. Because you’ve completed the process and all of that energy resulted in something and you look back and you forget how empty you once were because now you’re just so full!

I am totally empty these days.

My energy, my love, my time is being poured into Miss A and I am worn. out.

I have friends who have adopted little babies/toddlers and they talk so real about how trauma has affected their peanuts even though they were so small. I adopted only boys over the age of 3 so it seemed not so big a leap to assume the boys remembered/felt their loss (this is not to say I didn’t believe my friends, only to say I knew my boys were feeling it because they could tell me). Then we started taking care of A and anytime she meets with her family she has explosive diarrhea and night terrors for 2 days. 2 days. Her fear, her trauma, her past is so visceral this not yet 2-year-old doesn’t tell me she’s scared verbally but boy is it obvious!

So I pour it on, oh I lay it on thick. “How smart you are saying please and thank you!” “You are so beautiful!” I correct behavior that was learned under the fight or flight mechanism and I look her in the eyes and say comforting words or give a firm redirection. I pretend like I’m super glad she found me in the bathroom when I was hoping for a few minutes alone. Well, I do all that when I’m full-after a date night with Zach or lunch with friends.

When I’m empty I talk less, she looks at me sideways. She’s smart-yes she is. She knows when someone is only going through the motions and so she’s on to me when I’m empty. When I’m empty it exacerbates all of her issues.

And so I’m empty.

It feels so unfair to my kids who get only half the mom they were hoping to get (to be fair, they often fill me up when I need it as well). It feels most unfair to Zach who, yesterday, woke up to me saying, “I’m not going to talk to you right now. Everything is fine, I just can’t right now. I love you, but I can’t talk to you.”

I am in the middle.

A few months ago-I was out of the process. Before foster care we were in such a good rhythm that I had forgotten what it was like. I was so full I was giving energy away for free, man, here’s some of mine-take what you need.

Despite being empty and exhausted and near tears a lot of the day I’m so thankful I’m here. Because it reminds me that everyone is going through something. It reminds me not to pretend like I know the answers when my friends who are empty ask why I’m so full. It reminds me to say, “You’re in the thick of it. Press on, mama, you can do it.” Instead of, “Meditate, pray, have a big glass of wine.” Those things help but they are quick fixes to a long, laborious process.

So if you’re out there, if you’re empty too, just know that we are in the thick of it. Know that I love you, I get it. Press on, we can do it.

Where We’re At

Zach has been gone a lot more than usual lately (sidebar: never before have I felt such admiration for single moms/military wives) which culminated in this past weekend him being gone all weekend. Overall the weekend was good/fine but I could sense those little moments of stress building into a bigger moment of total Tesi breakdown. I tried everything to get rid of it-meditating, praying, drinking-so that when Zach got home he wouldn’t be met with a total bust of a wife. I think I did a decent job but still felt an underlying tension.

Tuesday night Zach works late and it happens to coincide with the night that Dailah has dance and Tomas has piano. My in-laws are so very generous and typically take the kids and me to dinner following the activities. Last night the plan was to meet at a restaurant that is a little further from home because they are giving some of their proceeds to the Y and who’s going to argue with that? When the kids and I arrived they told us it would be a 15 minute wait, which is not so bad considering we were going to be having 8 people and a high chair.

30 minutes later and we were still waiting. Little A, who is generally a very good almost 2-year-old, was being completely crazy. I knew she was hungry and tired but there was just nothing I could do in the small and crowded restaurant (and look it was beginning to snow again!). When we were finally seated-close to 45 minutes later-she had hit her wits end. The other 5 were as good as possible for also being overly hungry and tired but there were little spurts of mothering that had to be done with them as well. Little A decided she’d like to have a few very loud, very public tantrums. During one super special time I had to take her outside I was holding her little head in both my hands trying to get her to breathe and look at me. I noticed a couple come in with their teenage son and I remember thinking to myself, “I hope this looks nurturing and not threatening.” As soon as I could get her to look at me she calmed down and we were able to go back inside. I saw that couple immediately-the woman gave me one of those, “You got this, honey, it’s ok” looks and I almost started to cry.

Towards the end of the meal my father-in-law asked for the check and the waiter told me that nice couple had bought the whole meal.

It’s hard to put into words what that felt like. Because I’ve always had a genuine knack for exaggeration I will tell you it felt a little like I was drowning and that couple submerged their arms to recover me. Obviously my father-in-law was going to be equally generous and pay for it so it wasn’t about the money-it was about the act. When I sent the kids over to shake their hands and introduce themselves the man kept saying, “I’m not sure what you’re talking about but boy aren’t these kids lovely!”

I got in my car and just cried. It felt like grace, if grace were to put on a few pairs of skin and walk around.

The last few weeks with Little A have been eye opening. The kids we thought were on solid footing within the family have found themselves feeling completely unearthed. Zach and I feel a little like two ships passing in the night. Though we still have a knack for communicating openly and honestly it feels like this beautiful, sweet 22 month-er has wedged herself in between us as well (sometimes physically as she sleeps in our room) and that’s probably been the hardest of all for me, honestly.

Today a friend was at the house showing me pictures from her trip to Antarctica (beautiful!) and she asked if it was a bad time-as the kids were louder and crazier than normal. I found myself saying, “No, seriously, please don’t go.” I don’t remember the last time I felt so overwhelmed. Clearly neither did she, as soon as she left she sent me a text, “You and Zach need to go out. You want me Thursday or Friday?”

Grace.

This Sunday our pastor talked about the possibility that sometimes people are prone to not being able to accept grace fully. That even though they might know they are deeply loved by God they might not know it enough and so, consciously or subconsciously, they find themselves still trying to earn that grace.

Well shit I think he’s talking about me.

I know I’m beloved by God (I have the tattoo to prove it!) but I do think deep down I don’t totally understand how the whole grace thing works.

Until it shows up in the form of a paid-for meal or an unsolicited offer to babysit 6 children.

 

Super thankful I don’t have to have it all right or all figured out to have grace that defies understanding. More thankful I don’t have to do anything to deserve it, because right now I feel like total garbage with regards to deserving grace.

And yet there it was and is. Phew.

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It’s Going to Hurt

Having little A has been mostly amazing, obviously a little stress and exhaustion are mixed in there too, but mostly amazing.

Today I was changing A when I felt Tariku staring at me. I smiled at him, “What’s up, babe?”

“I like watching you with A, I feel like that’s how you would have been to me if you had me when I was 2.”

“Oh Tariku, I think I would’ve been even better with you. Because you are my son and I knew it from the moment I met you. With A I don’t know how long she’ll be with us so I can feel myself holding back a little bit. Sometimes it’s scary to fall in love with someone if you know they might leave. You ever felt like that before?”

“Yeah, I know exactly what that feels like.”

One of the more remarkable things that has come with us becoming foster parents is just how it’s affecting our adopted kiddos, specifically Tariku. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see they are reassured of their permanency every time another child comes for a bit then leaves.

I’m so thankful for where we’re at. It was a long road to get here but dammit it was worth it.

Tonight

Baby girl A ended up arriving on Thursday. She is beyond adorable and we are quickly falling in love with her. Though I’ve called my brother and sister-in-law no fewer than 10 times in the last few days with questions like, “Do 18-month-olds eat with regular silverware or do they need those baby spoons?” And, “What kind of carseat will I be needing?” I am nothing if not a lifetime learner so it’s been fun to regain some of this knowledge I once had but tucked away. No idea how long A will be with us but we’ll be thankful for the moments-good and bad-and go from there.

Yesterday my brother graduated from Palmer School of Chiropractic. For anyone who doesn’t know Marcus, he is pretty quiet guy. Thus, my whole family was surprised (only because he never said anything) that he had in fact graduated Magna Cum Laude. If you’re in the Altoona, Iowa area he’ll be setting up Dawson Chiropractic inside of the Altoona Family Chiropractic office on 8th St (by Fireside) soon! Of course I got all big sisterly the last couple of days because I am just so proud of the man he is, the husband and daddy and of the chiropractor he’ll be. Love you Dr. Dawson!

My siblings (and niece, of course, she can’t get far from her aunties when we’re around).

Zach was chosen as the Young Leader of the Community. We went to the ceremony last night where they mentioned they had the most amount of nominations they’ve ever had. What I loved the most was the ways they talked about him actually changing the community in which we live. Though he has taken Camp Abe Lincoln from operating in the red to operating in the black, he has done so much more. I have always shouted his praises from this particular blog rooftop but I was so thankful the rest of the community is catching on.

There was a caricature artist at the ceremony last night. We had to bring baby A with us, as she can’t be babysat by my parents like the rest of my kids (only certified foster/adopt/respite people are allowed to baby sit kids in the foster care system) so she got in on the action too.

My parents and grandparents made the trip to Davenport to celebrate Marcus’s graduation, as well as Lindsey’s (Marcus’s wife) parents. Some of my favorite moments this week were spent these last few days talking to all of those people. I am very blessed to have such a great family. And particularly blessed by my niece Adley Sue who looks up to Trysten like no other. They were so cute last night.

And tonight Trysten has his birthday sleepover with a few friends and 2 of my nephews. He is so excited and I am admittedly excited too. I’m grateful he has learned to make great choices in the friend department, so it’s always a pleasure to see Trysten in that element. Also, time with my nephews? Can’t get enough. But first, a little ice cream to start off his festivities today.

Happy weekend to you!

Tomorrow

I have a few minutes before the kids get home from school so I wanted to sort through my thoughts a bit. Since Zach isn’t here I guess you guys will do. 😉

I got a call yesterday about fostering a little 1 1/2-year-old. In the past we have fostered a newborn and a 9-year-old. The newborn was fun for all of his cute, squishy goodness but a real wake up call -literally- when it came to nighttime feedings and whatnot. Our lives, as it turns out, are so far removed from babies that it was just too much of an adjustment.

The 9-year-old was much the same story. We are not actually “open” to a child that old (we signed on for 0-5) but it turns out they’ll call you on anything. Anything. We’ve had calls ranging from 0 to 17-years-old. True. Story. And for a girl like me, it’s really really hard to say no. No matter if they are a 17-year-old boy with significant issues or a newborn baby with no issues. The 9-year-old was kind of thrust at us, for lack of better term, and we felt unprepared to say no. Mostly because they handed us her contract right in front of her. We loved and cared for her for a week and then she found a more permanent place.

So we’ve learned lots of lessons already, which I guess is good. The hard part for me is our learning has come at the expense of actual children. Having adopted kids from hard places I know what even the smallest of things can do to a child, let alone the constant transitioning between caregivers.

After the 9-year-old I told Zach I wanted to take a break. I felt like it was too much. I had forgotten how hard it was on everyone (and selfishly, on me) to attach to new people. I had forgotten how emotionally draining it is to be everything for a child who has nothing. It. is. hard. And I wanted to be done with it.

But something kept pulling at me. If you’re anything like me, you too constantly gravitate towards comfort. I want things to be easy, I desire stress free environments. Fostering is not easy. There, I said it. The reality is, though, I really do believe we are made to live in tension. Particularly those of us who are blessed to have enough food, clean water, shelter and jobs every day. For those of us who have the basics cared for, I am convinced we are meant to live in a place where we are challenged, always moving forward either on our behalf or neighbors’.

It looks differently for everyone (I’m certainly not one to say everyone should adopt or foster or do the things I’m doing) which is kind of what I love about the whole thing. If we actually act on what pulls us, if we actually do the things that might make us uncomfortable at first but has the potential to change us…well then we really could change the world. Each in our own little ways, each in our own little spheres of influence.

Tomorrow a little girl will get off a plane and come live at camp for awhile. I have no idea for how long  and I have no idea what it will look like to have her here. Today I’m going through where she will sleep, where we will put her clothes (where will we get clothes?). But tonight while I try-and fail- to sleep I’ll think about my fears and hopes and dreams and anxieties. Like I do all the time. Whether we have foster children or not.

Because if there’s one thing I know for sure, the tension I’m living in today always results in a breakthrough of sorts. Usually it’s a realization of my own shortcomings but sometimes it’s a revelation that even someone like me-a deeply flawed human-can affect even a little bit of change. I just have to get over myself a bit and allow it to happen naturally on it’s own.

In the meantime I’d take prayers and positive thoughts, not for me but for her-that she might have patience with me. And that she might know regardless, she is a deeply loved human.

New Chapter

So I mentioned in this post that we had a secret to share.

Sarah thought maybe it was my sister getting engaged, which is super exciting and I’ll write on that later, but not it.

The news is that in a few weeks we will officially be licensed foster parents.

Yikes. I almost threw up just typing that.

To back up:

After we first adopted Tariku, Zach and I started talking about how foster care will happen for us one day. We always kind of thought we’d start it when the kids were older and then we’d be able to do some older children fostering.

But after about a year home with Tomas and Binyam we both realized we still had some room in our hearts for more children. So we thought we’d go to a foster care informational meeting and see what they had to say.

We left feeling like it was definitely doable and that now sounded like a good time. They said at the meeting that we’d start the 10 week classes in a few months and then go from there.

The next day we got a phone call, “Hey we saw on your sheet that you’ve adopted before so we were hoping you would start classes tomorrow.”

The classes were every Tuesday for 3 hours each night, for 10 weeks straight. We needed babysitters and I needed a sub for one of my classes. Obviously without hesitation I responded

Sure!

And as is with most things like this, it ended up working itself out. Only one night did we have to leave early because Tariku fell off his skateboard and wanted to see a doctor (he was fine). Everything else fell into place.

The classes were long and sometimes really painfully boring. Because we had done so much education before our adoptions we knew a lot about what they were discussing.

We were disappointed to find they didn’t do any attachment talk and very little education on privacy.

We were pleased to learn more about the birth family relationship and how it pertains to the foster family.

So in the end we will be dually licensed as foster and adoptive parents for a child 0-5yrs old. Any gender. If we are fostering a child who has parental rights terminated and they are a good fit for our family we will choose to proceed with an adoption. If not, we will do our best to love ’em while we got ’em.

If we get a placement and we can see that any of our kids are struggling in the least bit we will take time off from fostering and refocus as a family. With all things, our family is our priority and we are entering this new chapter with that in mind.

Of course I’m nervous and excited and want to throw up a little bit. Undoubtedly the thing I’m most nervous about is falling in love with a child/ren and then having to release them. After the classes, though, my mind has shifted and I feel better about that.

Because the thing of it is I really do believe Zach and I are good parents. I think God gives us all these places where our strengths can meet some of the world’s greatest needs and this happens to be it for us. Parenting. We make mistakes, of course we do, but I think in some respects this is the thing I’m best at.

And so we go forward. Scared, excited, nervous, anxious, all of that. But we have each other, and our kids who are more excited than we are and we have a God who we really do believe is stringing this all together.

So for better or worse.

Onward.